Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Iraq is the Monkey on Bush's Back

"Hi, my name is George, and I'm an addict."

No, I'm not suggesting that President George W. Bush is back on the sauce or coke or any other mind-altering substance. No, I think it's quite clear that Bush is addicted to Iraq, and he needs help to kick the habit. I don't care if it's a 12-step group, a methadone clinic or a trip to an escort service (I hear David Vitter, the Republican U.S. Senator from Louisiana, can give him a phone number). Whatever W needs to do to break this addiction is fine with me. Even if it means going back on booze and/or coke. I don't care. Because much like the beleaguered family of an addict, the American people can't take much more of this. We just need his madness to stop.

In the early years of the war, Bush loved to tell us how great things were. In an April 13, 2004 press conference (mainly addressing the upcoming June 30th transfer of power to the new Iraqi government), he said, "It's not a civil war; it's not a popular uprising. Most of Iraq is relatively stable. Most Iraqis, by far, reject violence and oppose dictatorship." In that same address, he said, "As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation -- and neither does America. We're not an imperial power, as nations such as Japan and Germany can attest. We are a liberating power, as nations in Europe and Asia can attest, as well." He went on to say that sovereignty "requires Iraqis to assume responsibility for their own future."

It has been more than three years since Bush's remarks. The situation on the ground was dire then, as he noted in the April 13, 2004 address, saying, "This has been tough weeks [sic] in that country. Coalition forces have encountered serious violence in some areas of Iraq." The conditions have grown far worse, but Bush refuses to adapt, as if wishing really hard will make his policies work against all evidence to the contrary.

A month after the Democrats won enough seats to take control of Congress, almost solely on the issue of discontent with Bush's handling of Iraq, the Iraq Study Group submitted its report. Bush, in a December 6, 2006 statement, said, "It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion. The commission is headed up to Congress, and I urge the members of Congress to take this report seriously. While they won't agree with every proposal -- and we probably won't agree with every proposal -- it, nevertheless, is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue."

Of course, he had no intention whatsoever of listening to the study group or working with the Democrats. The Democrats in Congress embraced the report, while Bush rejected it out of hand, opting instead for a "surge" of extra troops. He then steamrolled the Democrats in Congress who tried to change his Iraq policy and went on with more of the same, watching as casualties piled up, money was thrown away, and things didn't get any better.

Bush's mantra since the surge has been "wait and see what happens." Well, the first report on his policy will be issued in a few days, and the press is reporting that the assessment will not be favorable. So, will this finally get Bush's attention? Will this be his rock bottom? His moment to confront his addiction to this war? Uh, no. A Yahoo!/AP article reported that White House spokesperson Tony Snow said this morning that what is needed is ... say it with me ... more time. Snow argued that the report only covers the beginning of the surge, and more time is needed to see if it will work out or not.

It's time to tell Bush, no, sorry, you're out of time.

This is the point in the addiction cycle when the addict needs an intervention. He needs his friends and loved ones to gather and tell him that while they love him, he has a problem that has to be addressed. A weak intervention effort has been started by his Republican colleagues in the Senate. GOP Senators, ranging from moderates like Susan Collins of Maine to more conservative legislators like Pete Domenici of New Mexico, are expressing their concerns with Bush's Iraq policy. They haven't said they will vote to change Bush's policies yet, but their outspokenness cannot be music to the White House's ears. For an intervention to work, the friends and family have to be strong, but it's a start, I suppose.

It's time for all Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, to stand up and say, "I'm sorry Mr. President, you are out of time. It's time to see if the Iraqis are willing to govern themselves."

Rather than reading about Iraqi lawmakers rising to the occasion, we are reading about no-confidence votes meant to bring down Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and a lack of movement by Iraqi lawmakers on dividing the nation's oil riches. More than 70 of the 275 members of parliament don't even show up anymore, boycotting the political process. It's time to say to the Iraqis, "We took out your dictator, we gave you more than four years of muscle to try and get your act together, it's time for you to decide what you want to do with your future. But you will do so without taking one more American soldier's life." As long as we're there, they have no incentive to make tough decisions. It's time to move them to the brink, have them decide what they are really willing to do (and not do) for a peaceful Iraq.

Much like one would expect from a junkie, Bush's addiction is hurting the country's finances. According to a Yahoo!/AP article, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported that with the increased costs of the surge, the U.S. is spending nearly half-a-trillion dollars on Iraq this year. Let me write that out in numerals to stress how big the figure really is: $500,000,000,000. Think about all the domestic problems we face that require long-term commitments of money: border security, port security, social security, Medicare, health care reform, and changes to help stem global warming, just to name a few, but the list could go on forever. We simply can't afford to throw away any more money on Bush's addiction.

Enough is enough. Much like there comes a time when a spouse decides that he/she can no longer allow his/her spouse's addiction to drag down their family any longer, the American people have to take action to ensure that Bush's addiction to Iraq doesn't damage the country any further.

A Yahoo!/AP article reported that Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island have proposed legislation that would call for Bush to start removing troops from Iraq in 120 days and end all combat by April 30, 2008 (with exceptions for counterterrorism and training). Bush may or may not be able to count on his Republican minions to back his increasingly destructive single-minded pursuit of a failed policy in Iraq, but the American people need to be sure that there are consequences for anyone who enables Bush.

The time for waiting is over. Action to end the war in Iraq must be taken now. Bush's addiction needs to be addressed. The worst thing to do to a junkie is give him money and help him get a fix. Bush needs to go cold turkey.